updated 10/26/2006 11:07:00 AM ET 2006-10-26T15:07:00

Guests: Dana Milbank, Loretta Nall, Sam Seder

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST:  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

The whole new policy in Iraq doesn‘t seem to include a whole lot of new policy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Absolutely, we‘re winning.  This is a different kind of war than the war against the fascists in World War II.  We were facing a nation-state and two nation-states, three nation-states.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  One, two, three.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And the count is involved in one of two new controversies over that pesky phrase that the White House dropped Monday, “stay the course.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  And we went back and looked today, and we could only find eight times where he‘d ever used the term—the phrase “stay the course”...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Well, there are the eight you found, and the other 21 we found.

And has President Bush really cut and run from stay the course?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

SNOW:  He‘s stopped using it.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He‘s not backing away from staying the course.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Of course not.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

OLBERMANN:  The masters of the media message have not all gotten the same memo.

The memos to comedian Rush Limbaugh about Michael J. Fox seem to be voluminous and unanimous.  Shut the (beep, beep) up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  He is moving all around and shaking and it is purely an act.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  For once, some truth in political advertising, the write-in candidate for governor of Alabama.  Her platform, quote, “More of these boobs and less of these boobs.”  Loretta Knoll (ph) joins us.

And the Madonna adoption, day number 90, version of the truth number 17, and she speaks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “OPRAH”)

MADONNA:  I think, for me, I‘m disappointed, because more than anything, it discourages other people from doing the same thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.  This is Wednesday, October 25, 13 days until the 2006 midterm elections.

President Bush had to say about Iraq this morning in the White House East Room may not have been all that new nor noteworthy, except the fact that he was choosing to put himself in the position of having to say it at all.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, two weeks before an election that might well be a referendum on his war, if not, indeed, his presidency, two weeks after his last solo news conference, the president today subjecting himself to more questions, the first time he has ever had two news conferences so close together, in another first, Mr. Bush departing from his usual practice of avoiding comment about specific deaths in Iraq, saying that the 93 American troops killed there so far this month are a serious concern, the U.S. military today taking steps to halt that violence, launching an overnight raid alongside Iraqi forces into Sadr City, the notorious Baghdad slum of 2 million people ruled by anti-American Shi‘ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

The raid did not go smoothly.  It may, in fact, have been launched without the consent of the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, also voicing anger today about the benchmarks his government is purported to be putting together to keep tabs on itself.

Well, we (INAUDIBLE) tonight—begin tonight, rather, with more on what Mr. Bush himself had to say about those benchmarks in response to a question from our own chief White House correspondent, David Gregory.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID GREGORY, NBC CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  In the past, Democrats and other critics of the war who talked about benchmarks and timetables were labeled as defeatists, defeatocrats, or people who wanted to cut and run.  So why shouldn‘t the American people conclude that this is nothing from you other than semantic, rhetorical games, and all politics two weeks before an election?

BUSH:  David, there is a significant difference between benchmarks for a government to achieve, and a timetable for withdrawal.  You‘re talking about, when you‘re talking about the benchmarks, he‘s talking about the fact that we‘re working with the Iraqi government to have certain benchmarks to meet, as a way to determine whether or not they‘re making the hard decisions necessary to achieve peace.

I believe that‘s what you‘re referring to.  And we‘re working with the Iraqi government to come up with benchmarks.  Listen, this is a sovereign government.  It was elected by the people of Iraq.  What we‘re asking them to do is, When do you think you‘re going to get this done?  When can you get this done?

So the people themselves in Iraq can see that the government is moving forward with a reconciliation plan and plans necessary to unify this government.  That is substantially different, David, from people saying, We want a time certain to get out of Iraq.  As a matter of fact, the benchmarks will make it more likely we win.  Withdrawing on an artificial timetable means we lose.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You‘ve said, Mr. President, several times here this morning that the definition of failure in Iraq would be to leave before the job was done.  But you also said that you have no intention of seeing our troops standing in the crossfire of a sectarian war within that country.

With many observers on the ground saying that civil war in Iraq is as close as it‘s ever been, how do you reconcile those two statements?  And what happens if a full-fledged civil war breaks out?

BUSH:  Dick, our job is to prevent the full-flail—full-scale civil war from happening in the first place.  It‘s one of the missions, is to work with the Maliki government to make sure that there is a political way forward that says to the people of Iraq, it‘s not worth it, the civil war‘s not worth the effort.  By them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Is the coming election a referendum on Iraq? 

Should it be?

BUSH:  I think the coming election is a referendum on these two

things, which party has got the plan that will enable our economy continue

to continue to grow?  And which party has a plan to protect the American people?  And Iraq is part of the security of the United States.  If we succeed, and when we succeed in Iraq, our country will be more secure.  If we don‘t succeed in Iraq, the country is less secure.

The security of this country—and look, I understand here in Washington, some people say we‘re not at war.  I know that.  They‘re just wrong, in my opinion.  The race is over as far as a lot of punditry goes. 

You know?  They‘ve got it, they‘ve got it all figured out.  And they just -

as I said, they‘re dancing in the end zone.  They just haven‘t scored the touchdown, Mark, you know, and (INAUDIBLE), there‘s a lot to—lot of, lot of time left.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Thank you, Mr. President, (INAUDIBLE) questions today.

BUSH:  What was that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Thank you for taking questions today.

BUSH:  Baker (ph), I‘m just happy to be able to be here, (INAUDIBLE), I can‘t tell you how joyful it is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Given that the war in Iraq is not going as well as you want, and given that you‘re not satisfied, as you just told us today, why hasn‘t anybody being held accountable?  Should somebody be held accountable?

BUSH:  Peter, you asked me why I believe Secretary Rumsfeld is doing a good job, I think, if I might decipher to the Washington code.  Well, let‘s start with Rumsfeld.  He is a smart, tough, capable administrator.  As importantly, he understands that the best way to fight this war, whether it be in Iraq or anywhere else around the world, is to make sure our troops are ready, that morale is high, that we transform the nature of our military to meet the threats, and that we give our commanders on the ground the flexibility necessary to make the tactical changes to achieve victory.

The, this is a tough war in Iraq.  It is a hard fight, no question about it.  All you got to do is turn on your TV.  But I believe that the military strategy we have is going to work.  That‘s what I believe.

The ultimate accountability, Peter, rests with me.  That‘s the ultimate.  You‘re ask about accountability, that‘s rests right here.  People want to—people are unhappy about it, look right to the president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Dana Milbank on the domestic political implications of all that, particularly the last remark, in a moment.

Though in the bigger picture, even they may be overshadowed by the outcry from the Iraqi government.  Prime Minister al-Maliki, the Iraqi commander in chief, angrily claiming that he had not been consulted about the Sadr City raid before it was launched, while also dismissing the very notion of his government meeting any benchmarks, let alone having imposed them upon itself.

Quoting from his remarks, “I affirm that this government represents the will of the people, and no one has the right to impose a timetable on it.  I am sure this is not the official policy of the U.S. government, but it is a result of the election campaign, and we are not much concerned with that.”

As promised now, our own Dana Milbank, also, of course, national political correspondent for “The Washington Post.”

Dana, good evening.

DANA MILBANK, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: 

Hello, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  By telling voters to hold him accountable for Iraq, with an election less than two weeks away, yet at the same time still defending Secretary Rumsfeld, did President Bush succeed in doing anything other than digging himself and his party into a deeper hole?  Was there a subtle strategy there that we missed?

MILBANK:  It was easy to miss.  I think what he was trying to do is, in many ways, with that last clip, come out and make sort of a Trumanesque statement, And I am responsible here.

I think the overall effect, though, was much more Lyndon Johnson, the picture of a man just completely captured his presidency almost and basically destroyed by a very unpopular war.

Now, I think if there was something that he actually did there, there was some very clever sort of moving of the goal posts there, and it was quite easy to miss.  He basically redefined what victory in Iraq meant today, and he said that victory is defined by a stable Iraq able to defend itself.

Well, it was just a year ago, exactly, when the national strategy for victory in Iraq came out, and that was to have a democracy in Iraq, to have economic prosperity in Iraq, and to have that security component.  So he‘s jettisoned that, the talk about democracy, the talk about human rights.  Much easier to just have some sort of a state that is capable of a military clampdown.  And if that is indeed defining down victory, it makes it easier to achieve.

OLBERMANN:  On top of that, domestically, did he not just make sure that anyplace where it was not, that Iraq has become the top issue in virtually every Senate and House election two weeks from now?  And how could that help the Republicans?

MILBANK:  (INAUDIBLE), a lot of people are asking themselves that very same question right now.  He had another—his earlier press conference didn‘t achieve much.  This one didn‘t seem to either.  Presumably, the president wants to get out there and once again reassociate the link between the overall war on terror and the war in Iraq.

I think he also wanted to sort of answer the state of denial issue, and try to get out there and say, I know things are hard, I know things are and tough, I‘m listening.  He was doing a little nudge, nudge, wink, wink with the benchmarks that he‘s listening to people there.  But the overall effect, of course, was this—just one problem after another.

OLBERMANN:  And he claimed that some people in Washington say we‘re not at war.  This could be, in a big field, the flimsiest straw man ever presented by this administration.  Many people in Washington and elsewhere protest the war we‘re in in Iraq, and why we‘re in it, but in doing that, is anyone actually making the claim that we‘re not at or involved in a war?

MILBANK:  I‘m sure somebody is.  It‘s probably those guys in the tent in Lafayette Park across from the White House.  But, no, of course nobody very seriously is making that argument.  But the straw man has been used very effectively and for a long time.  I mean, the very argument for getting into Iraq, the president phrases, Do I take the word of—do I take a madman at his word, or do I defend America?

Now, of course, when I do pose it that way, it‘s a very easy answer.  So the idea is to redefine the whole equation there, set up the straw man, knock it down.

OLBERMANN:  Do I measure drapes, or dance in the end zone?

Is the opening remarks that—and again, one of the first answers, there, there was one thing, you talk about things that get past people in a news conference, the president made the claim that one reason the U.S. has got to win in Iraq is that it would be a mistake to have a world in which oil reserves are controlled by radicals.

Why on earth would any Republican play into the hands of the critics who‘ve long said, and usually haven‘t gotten very far with this argument, that may now have, you know, a quote from the president they can use in their own defense, that the only reason, or the main reason, we went to war in Iraq was because of the oil?

MILBANK:  Well, I think this is a reflection of what we‘re—what he‘s left with at this point.  First rationale, going to Iraq for their weapons of mass destruction.  Well, we lost that very quickly.  Second rationale, to spread democracy in the Middle East.  Well, as we just discussing, the whole democracy rationale has just been jettisoned.  That‘s no longer part of it.

So we‘re now down to, you know, terrorists, if they—we don‘t fight them there, they‘re coming to get us in the streets of Cleveland, and the idea they can wreak havoc with energy.  So I think that‘s really just the only card left he can play.

OLBERMANN:  I guess it might, and do some sort of reference to lower gas prices or something.

Dana Milbank of MSNBC and, of course, “The Washington Post,” as always, great thanks for your time, sir.

MILBANK:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Meantime, we‘re back to those three little words, “stay the course.”  The White House undercounts how often the president has said that by nearly 75 percent.

And as to him backing away from the phrase, the secretary of defense says he is not backing away from the phrase.  Can you guys all have a meeting and just get one story straight?

Same for Rush Limbaugh.  It turns out he did not just verbally criticize Michael J. Fox, he physically mocked him.  And after a brief tepid semiapology, Limbaugh has again claimed Mr. Fox is faking it.  Who did you say was off his meds, Rush?

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  You‘ve probably forgotten this, because it stuck about as well as did the New Coke.  But just last year, the Pentagon tried to change the language.  We were no longer fighting a war on terror, we were fighting a global struggle against violent extremism.

But despite Donald Rumsfeld‘s endless repetition of the new phrase, the effort failed, because the commander in chief refused to call the global struggle against violent extremism anything but the war on terror.

Now in our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, that message miscommunication is happening in reverse.  On Monday, the White House fired the underproducing catchphrase “stay the course,” and apparently nobody told the secretary of defense.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE SEAN HANNITY SHOW”)

SEAN HANNITY, HOST:  A lot of debate has now emerged over the phrase “stay the course,” and what that actually means.  Well, the president is backing away from staying the course.  He‘s not backing away from staying the course.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  Of course not.  You know, I suppose the concern was that it gave opponents a chance to say, Well, he‘s not willing to make adjustments, and, of course, just the opposite is true.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The problem arises when you can‘t make adjustments even about the language of making adjustments.

The White House press secretary is now revising his revisionist history on that phrase, and still coming up short, first saying that the president never said “stay the course,” then yesterday saying this to Fox News.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE BIG STORY,” FOX NEWS CHANNEL)

JOHN GIBSON, HOST:  So is it true the president has abandoned the line, We‘re staying the course, and the new explanation of Iraq is, there is a timeline in place?

SNOW:  You know, this is a great story, John, because the president—we went back and looked today, and we could only find eight times where he‘d ever used the term, the phrase “stay the course”...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Well, sure, to be fair, the president did say “stay the course” eight times.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

BUSH:  This country will stay the course.

My message is that, is that, we will stay the course.

And that‘s why we‘re going to stay the course in Iraq.

If we don‘t lose our nerve, if we stay the course...

... would have the nerve to stay the course, and...

And we will stay the course.

We must stay the course.

And I told him and assured him that the United States would stay the course.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

OLBERMANN:  So there they are, the eight, and the only eight times President George W. Bush ever said the phrase “stay the course.”  The only time...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

BUSH:  ... stay the course in Iraq.

And it‘s very important for us to stay the course.

And we‘re going to stay the course.

And America will stay the course.

We will stay the course.

We will stay the course.

We will stay the course.

We‘re just going to stay the course.

We will, we will stay the course.

We will stay the course.

We‘re there to stay the course...

And we‘ll stay the course...

... stay the course.

... stay the course.

... stay the course.

... stay the course...

... stay the course...

We sill stay the course...

And yet we must stay the course.

And we will stay the course in Iraq.

And that‘s what we‘re doing, and we‘ll stay the course.

As a matter of fact, we will win in Iraq, so long as we stay the course.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

OLBERMANN:  And now you know tomorrow‘s headline for Mr. Snow, I never said he only said it eight times, I said we could only find eight times.  Evidently somebody at the White House needs a little help with the Google.

Rush Limbaugh staying his course through the sewers of public discourse.  After the fake apology to Michael J. Fox, he attacks him anew.  And funny doggone thing, turns out Fox did ads for Republicans about stem cell research, and Limbaugh did not rip him then.

And have you had enough of politics as usual?  So has this woman.  She is pushing voters to vote for her cleavage.  Seriously.  She and it will join us, ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It was on this date in 1929 that the former secretary of the interior, Albert Fall, became the only official from the Harding administration to be sentenced to prison for his part what was to that point the greatest scandal in American political history, Teapot Dome.

It‘s widely assumed that Fall‘s status as the only guy who got caught inspired the turn of phrase, “the fall guy.”  In fact, etymologists now trace the use of that term back as early as 1906, which raises the bigger question, if the phrase had already been use for 15 years, when you get involved in Teapot Dome, fall guy, and your name is Albert Fall, and you alone get convicted, how in the hell did you not see that coming?

Let‘s play Oddball.

Inside the week mark for Halloween, and we begin with two different creative ways to smash pumpkins on the 31st.  Tired of just picking them off your neighbor‘s porch and smashing them in the road?  Try collecting them by the barrel full and spread them around in the dirt and then wait for the elephants to show up.  Elephants love to play smashy the pumpkin.

At least, these do at the Berlin Zoo.  It‘s a once-a year treat for the pachyderms.  To get this kind of action, they usually have to wonder into the tortoise exhibit.

I‘m sorry.

The second method, a tad more elaborate, you‘re going to need a big orange air compressor-charged pumpkin cannon, bunch of red and white barrels, and an old minivan.  It‘s the main attraction at the Winterbrook Farm in Thurmont (ph), Maryland.  Seven dollars gets you three shots.  Put one in the chamber and fire away for fun and prizes.  There‘s also a smaller cannon that shoots apples and corn.

But it just seems wasteful now.

Finally, our monthly reminder that no matter how toxic the politics in our country may be, at least we‘re not spraying gas at each other  -- if you don‘t count Rush Limbaugh.  No, in fact, he‘s much more toxic than just this.  It‘s Taiwanese mayoral candidate Li O (ph) using a new debating tactic during a discussion of an arms deals with the U.S.  He showed up with a mask and a stun gun and started spraying tear gas around the room, as his opponents fled to open windows to get fresh air in there.

The political newcomer clearly won the debate, but he still has a lot of ground to make up before the December election.  I‘m Li O, and I approved this message.

Who‘s bigger, Madonna or Oprah?  We mean this in terms of influence only. 

She gets her to talk about the adoption.

And Shaquille O‘Neal, part-time Virginia reserve sheriff‘s deputy, participates in an actual police sting, the same way he shoots free throws, poorly.

Details ahead.

But first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, Mitch Albom (ph) of “The Detroit Free Press” and radio station WJR, after the controversy about the big brown stain on the left pitching hand of Kenny Rogers of the Tigers, and what that was, Albom dismissed the Rogers cheating issue to his radio audience and told them of how he shook the lefty‘s hand after game two of the World Series and found no foreign substance on it.

As Joe La Point (ph) so deftly pointed out in “The New York Times” today, Albom, quote, “did not mention that the standard practice is to shake with the right hand.”  Rogers (INAUDIBLE).

Number two, the three candidates for sheriff in Weston (ph) County, West Virginia.  When write-in candidate Clayton Alford allegedly struck Democratic candidate Judy Johnson in the face at a rally on Saturday, Alford was promptly arrested by the Republican candidate, incumbent Jerry Bowman.  Now, that‘s bipartisanship.  Tripartisanship, in fact.

Number one, an unnamed man in Vienna, Austria (INAUDIBLE) reported locally as an acrimonious divorce, he gave his ex-wife something besides what the court had ordered him to, his wedding ring, with his ring finger still attached to it.  He cut it off.  He explained he didn‘t want it back, he wouldn‘t miss it, he could do his job easily without it, and he did not plan on getting married again anyway.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  At a time of mudslinging, lies, race baiting commercials and ad homonym attacks, this political season has yielded a brief and sadly isolated occurrence of one of the most powerful weapons in the arsenal of public discourse.  Our third story in the COUNTDOWN tonight, it‘s called “grace.”  You‘ll see in a moment, but let‘s start at the beginning an advertisement that started in Missouri this past weekend. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHAEL J. FOX, ACTOR:  As you might now, I care deeply about stem cell research.  In Missouri, you can elect Claire McCaskill who shares my hope for cures.  Unfortunately Jim Talent opposes stem cell research.  Senator Talent even wanted to criminalize the science that gives us a chance for hope.  They say all politics is local, but it‘s not always the case.  What you do in Missouri matters to millions of Americans.  Americans like me. 

CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE:  I‘m Claire McCaskill and I approved this message. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  As we told you on Monday, Rush Limbaugh attacked the ad and Mr. Fox on the radio show, but you really don‘t get the full impact until you see it for yourself. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, “RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW”:  In this commercial, he is exaggerating the effects of the disease.  He is moving all around and shaking and it‘s purely an act.  This is the only time I have ever seen Michael J. Fox portray any of the symptoms of the disease he has.  He can control himself enough to stay in the frame of the picture and he can control himself enough to keep his eyes right on the lens, the teleprompter, but his head and shoulders are moving all over the place.  So, this is really shameless, folks.  This is shameless of Michael J. Fox. 

Either he didn‘t take his medication or he‘s acting. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  In fact, ask a doctor, Fox‘s involuntary motions are not a side effect of going off the medication for Parkinson they are a side effect of taking it.  When he and other victims do not take the drug, they become increasingly immobile eventually they are unable to move at all. 

So, how did Mr. Fox respond to Limbaugh‘s assault on his integrity?  A crack about his own medication history, perhaps?  In fact, no, he responded with grace. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FOX:  It is hard for people and I understand, it‘s difficult for people who don‘t have Parkinson‘s or don‘t know about Parkison‘s to understand the symptoms and the way they work and the way medication works.  You get what you get on any given day. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Rather than retract his baseless and factually incorrect assaults on Fox integrity, Limbaugh first said he would apologize “if I am wrong,” then yesterday he restated his claim that Fox had stopped his medication to embellish the effects of the disease as if had been proven.  And he went on to spin the story further claiming that Democrats exploit infallible victims like Fox so that critics can‘t disagree. 

Let me call in Air America Radio Sam Seder, whose “Sam Seder” show airs every weekday morning.  Who spent a fair portion of this morning‘s program discussing both Fox and, I‘m guessing, Mr. Limbaugh. 

Sam, good evening.

SAM SEDER, AIR AMERICA:  Thanks Keith, it‘s a pleasure to be here. 

OLBERMANN:  Let me start with the obvious here, should we not be deferring to Rush Limbaugh on this because he knows so much more about prescription drugs then the rest of nation combined because, in fact, this may be his only area of genuine expertise? 

SEDER:  Well, if you‘re suggesting that perhaps Rush is jealous of Michael J. Fox, that Michael J. Fox gets his medication via prescription, I think you might be on to something. 

OLBERMANN:  Limbaugh said Fox is being exploited by Democrats, that Democrats are exploiting victims to insulate themselves from criticism.  Let me play another campaign ad.  This is from 2004.  It was for a Republican, and then let me get your reaction to it. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FOX:  Biomedical research could cure hundreds of diseases, save thousands of lives, and prevent millions of tears.  I understand that, and so does Arlen Specter.  He helped double the funding for biomedical research, more dollars for more research, for more cures. 

Arlen gets it.  It‘s that simple.

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER ®, PENNSYLVANIA: I‘m Arlen Specter and approved this ad to tell you there is hope for the future. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  So Sam, I‘m assuming Mr. Limbaugh at some point threw the victim exploitation claim at the Republicans for that Michael J. Fox ad? 

SEDER:  Not that I recall, Keith.  I mean, you know, I mean I think the bottom-line here is what you have conservatives are very worried that people will actually see the real world implications of their policies.  I mean, this is the same reason why we can‘t see the caskets of our troops that come back from Iraq.  It‘s the same reason why they attack 16-year-old pages for being subjected to child predators in Congress. 

I mean, this is all part of the fantasy world that they have to create for their followers or people just won‘t subscribe to the ideology. 

OLBERMANN:  We always try to see tipping points in politics, Bush had Katrina, Nixon had the Saturday night massacre, was this just Rush Limbaugh‘s?  I mean, he attacks a scandal free actor who has a terrible disease, accuses him of faking it, issues a phony apology, comes back the next day and says he is faking the disease.  Certainly even some of his adherence have to now view Limbaugh as was elegantly phrased by Harvey Levin today, as an oxymoron. 

SEDER:  Well, you know, I actually don‘t think it is a tipping point for him.  I mean, I think he may lose some people at the margins, but this is what his audience needs.  They need to be inoculated from the real-world truths of the policy of that—you know, the Rush Limbaugh‘s of the world espouse. 

I mean if they see these things, they need Rush to be there to give them an excuse to not take it certainly and Rush provided it for them today.  You know, he basically said a disease is a liberal plot and the reason why Iraqis are fighting each other is because they want the Democrats to win.  It actually allows his listeners a free pass on what reality is really about. 

OLBERMANN:  Do you think this sort of underlines, in bright red ink, the ties between the Republican Party and most of talk radio, that somebody said to Limbaugh, we need you to hit Michael J. Fox and he would just go ahead and do it without realizing he‘d wind up hurting himself to this degree? 

SEDER:  I actually think it‘s more of a cautionary tale of prolonged use of hillbilly heroin mixed in with handfuls of Viagra.  I mean, I think he‘s off the reservation on this thing.  I actually think that Karl Rove is pretty upset about this because, I mean, look at the publicity that that ad has generated.  It‘s now a national issue, where otherwise it would have been isolated in a couple of senatorial races.  I think he‘s off base here. 

OLBERMANN:  There is an anti-stem cell research ad that‘s also supposed to air in, locally at least, in Missouri during the World Series broadcast, ironically enough—that is being threatened, at best, by rain.  It has athletes, it has the starring pitcher from the game four of the World Series, it has actors, people who are known less for their involvement in medical research than for their religious beliefs.  It even starts in the Aramaic language with Jim Jim Caviezel reprising his first line from the Mel Gibson movie “Passion of the Christ.” 

Is the subtext that the GOP will no longer even pretend to try to address moderate Independents with substantive debate as long as they can go out and shoot for that fundamentalist base and hope that they can drag these people to the polls in two weeks? 

Yeah, I think you‘re absolutely right.  I‘m not even sure if it‘s the subtext.  I mean it seems to be the text.  You know, they don‘t get that the reason why Michael J. Fox‘s ad is so powerful is not because Michael J. Fox was on “Spin City” or because he was in “Back to the Future,” it‘s because he has the disease.  I mean, he actually feels the real-world implications of these policies. 

I think you‘re right.  I think this is just an attempt to get their base motivated to go vote, and frankly I don‘t think it‘s going to work. 

OLBERMANN:  I‘m I‘m Jeff Suppan St.  Louis Cardinals and I‘ve suffered from blisters for many year. 

SEDER:  Yeah, exactly.

OLBERMANN:  Sam Seder of Air America, great thanks for your time. 

Good to talk to you, Sam.

SEDER:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  From boobs like Limbaugh to what a woman candidate for governor of Alabama literally describes as her own, “boobs.”  I have to be politically correct on that.  She‘s hoping that when you get into the election booth, you‘ll think of her cleavage.  She‘ll join us.

And as international controversy swirls around Madonna‘s adoption of an African boy, where does he turn to jumpstart the damage control?  Oprah Winfrey. 

It is a clash of planetary proportions ahead.  But first, here are COUNTDOWN “Top 3 Sound Bites” of the day.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The chainsaw is prepared.  And their parts are practiced. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The best part is when you can stand like really still or sit really still and a lot of people come up and touch you. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Nobody else can scare them the chainsaw will. 

It‘s the fact that, you know, we don‘t use a chain or anything. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘ve always done it because there‘s nothing better then seeing a 25 to 30-year-old guy scream like a little girl. 

DAVID LETTERMAN, “LATE SHOW”:  They were talking to President Bush about what he likes to do in his spare time and he said what he like to do is get the Google—he gets on the Internet and he Googles and he‘s able to see satellite photos of his ranch.  He likes satellite pictures.  That‘s what he likes to do.  Well, great, how about looking for Osama bin Laden? 

EARLINE GARDNER, NOT DEAD:  He said, “lady,” I said, “Yes.  I was making business.”  I turned around and looked at him.  He said, “Could I ask you something?  Who are you?  I haven‘t seen you in a couple of year, are you who I think you are?”  I said “Bobby Earl, I‘m Earline.  Aunt Aerline.”  He said “I just went to the cemetery,” he said “I found you died in ‘05.” 

(SONG):  Staying alive.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Madonna answering questions about her headline grabbing African adoption.  How is little David and did she dupe the boy‘s father?  No duping from an Alabama gubernatorial candidate.  She says she‘s running on her—looks.  She‘ll join us ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  In the case of Madonna‘s adoption of a 13-month-old boy from Malawi, has been resubmitted to the court of public opinion via the “Oprah Winfrey Show.” 

In our No. 2 story in the COUNTDOWN, the child‘s biological father now he will not assist human right‘s groups that are contesting the case in a Malawian court of law.  Yohane Banda telling “Time” magazine he will not try to get his son back because it would mean “killing his future.” 

Meanwhile, Madonna, her own self, appeared via satellite on the “Oprah Winfrey Show” where the host said she was brave and should be applauded.  For the rest, correspondent Juliet Bremner of our affiliated British network ITV. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JULIET BREMNER, ITV CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Until today, Madonna‘s kept a low profile as the dispute over her adopted baby raged.  Now she‘s broken that silence, speaking from her home in London, she admitted to feeling letdown by the reaction. 

MADONNA, ENTERTAINER:  More than anything, I mean, for me, I understand that gossip and telling negative stories sells newspapers, but I think for me I‘m disappointed because more than anything it discourages other people from doing the same thing. 

BREMNER:  She claims David Banda was suffering from malaria and T.B.  when she first saw him and hadn‘t been visited for over a year.  Although his father told reporters he didn‘t realize his son would be taken away from him permanently, Madonna thinks the media has misrepresented him. 

“I‘d sat in that room.  I looked into that man‘s eyes.  I believe that the press is manipulating this information out of him.  They put words into his mouth.  They spun a story that‘s completely false.”

Madonna accepts it was never going to be easy to adopt a child from Malawi, despite the fact there are more than a million orphans there.  “I was warned by my social worker that because there were no known laws in Malawi, they were more or less going to have to make them up as we went along.”

It all went down well with her American audience. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It was really, really wonderful.  And I really think that what Madonna‘s doing is great.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I thought she was very sincere and made a big impact on the audience. 

BREMNER:  However, it‘s a vote of confidence that‘s unlikely to end the dispute about whether this little boy is anything more than the latest accessory for a superstar. 

Juliet Bremner, ITV-News.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  In the court of public opinion, celebrities are represented by two separate yet equally important groups:  The P.R.  flacks who are paid to make them look good, and the tabloids who are paid to make them look bad.

These are their stories, which we call “Keeping Tabs.” 

Elizabeth Hasselbeck is putting the “special” back into “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”  Miss Hasselbeck, perhaps best known for her work as a mime on the show the “View,” told the grown-ups on that program that she was outraged by the name of one of “Law & Order‘s” special victims:  Elizabeth Hassenback.  Elizabeth Hasselbeck says a producer for the show told her the name was a coincidence.

In fact a COUNTDOWN analysis determined that Miss Hasselbeck is not alone in her complaint that in fact among all the “Law & Order” franchises combined; they have now killed off the entire population of New York City. 

A Virginia sheriff as confirmed Shaquille O‘Neal‘s participation in a child porn raid last month.  You may know that when he‘s not playing for the Miami Heat, O‘Neal is patrolling for the Virginia fuzz.  He‘s a reserve sheriff‘s deputy in addition to being a reserve officer in Miami Beach. 

Despite O‘Neal‘s denial yesterday, a Virginia sheriff tells the “Associated Press” that Shaq was, in fact, part of a child porn raid last month, but the raid was taking place at the wrong house.  Sheriff‘s house says they hit the wrong home address because an Internet provider gave them the wrong I.P.  address for the suspect‘s computer.  Longtime fans may remember Shaq used the same excuse after missing all 11 free-throws against Seattle at a game 2000. 

And if you‘ve ever wanted to own some of Dick Clarks‘ stuff, well here‘s your chance.  That‘s right, America‘s oldest teenager is throwing America‘s biggest garage sale.  The 76-year-old, former host of “American Bandstand,” putting a lifetime‘s work of music history on the auction black.  Some of the profits will go to help raise money for research for fighting cancer and AIDS. Among the goodies, the microphone Clark first used on July 9, 1956, his first day hosting “American Bandstand.” 

Also up for grabs, a base guitar from Paul McCartney‘s Beatle‘s days, Bob Dylan‘s harmonica from the concert film “The Last Waltz,” and oddly enough, both Michael Jackson‘s glove and a huge collection of “Playboy” magazines, apparently marking the first time Michael Jackson‘s a glove has come near a copy of “Playboy” magazine. 

Our next guest would no doubt have the backing of “Playboy” in her run for governor of Alabama.  She was been arrested on pot charges.  She openly talks about not liking panties and her platform for election, her boobs, more of her own and less of the boobs we already have in office.  That‘s ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for “Worst Person in the World.”

The Bronze to whoever thought it would be funny to position an actual supermarket shopping cart atop of the flagpole outside the Ralph‘s supermarket in Pasadena, California.  When a store employee went out to raise the flag last Saturday morning, the 50 pound cart dropped onto her head.  She is still in the hospital in serious, but stable condition with a broken neck. 

The runner up, Mack Malone, football coach in Willis High in Willis, Texas.  There was a blood drive at the school on Monday, Malone saw six of his high school players giving blood right before a football practice, so naturally he kicked them off the team.  Then he calmed down and put them back on the team, but Malone took their starting jobs away from them and suspended them for an additional game.  That might cost some of them chances at college scholarships. 

I‘m missing something, here.  This jack-ass still has a job? 

But the winner, Wayne Derkotch of Philadelphia, dissatisfied with the amount of time—playing time he was son was getting at his football game, Mr. Derkotch firs got into an argument with that team‘s coach, then a fistfight, and then he drew a loaded 357 magnum from his waistband and threatened the coach with it. 

This was at a pee-wee football game, six and seven-year-olds. 

Mr. Derkotch, maybe when you get out of jail, you can give the coach Malone a call out there in Willis, Texas. 

Wayne Derkotch, today‘s “Worst Person in the World.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Some politicians shoot from the hip.  Some candidacies start from the heart.  And in our No. 1 story in the COUNTDOWN then there is Loretta Nall who has busted out of the pack of candidates for Alabama governor and media attention, at least, using her chest, and a touch of honesty that could impress the average folks, the ones, you remember, H.L.  Mencken use to call the boobuazee (ph).

Miss Nall, who will join us presently, is the Libertarian Party‘s write-in candidate for governor of Alabama.  Even she may confess she‘s unlikely to win the election, but a campaign slogan of sorts has thrust her candidacy forward.  It appears on t-shirts comparing her to the other candidates proudly stating “More of these boobs and less of these boobs.” 

Miss Nall‘s campaign platform equally bold, she supports legalizing marijuana and not complying with the Patriot Act, but the Libertarian Party could not garner the $40,000 signatures required to get her name on the ballot.  No matter, because her latest campaign tactic, she says, “Started out as a joke, but it blew up into something huge.”

Joining us now, as promised, Loretta Nall.

Thanks for your time tonight.

LORETTA NALL (L-AL), “BOOB” CANDIDATE:  Thank you so much for having me on, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  How did you arrive at this particular campaign strategy? 

NALL:  It kind of was thrust upon me by the media in Alabama.  There were two dirty old men who happened to be journalists down in Montgomery and one wrote a column about—before interviewing me for the column, he just kind of pooh-poohed it, said I was silly and crazy and doing it for fun.  And he asked the editor of one of the newspapers that running his column to find a picture of me to run. 

Now the sensible thing to do, in a gubernatorial election, would be to call the campaign and ask for a campaign photo, but oh, know.  They went to Google and Googled me on Google images and came up with a picture, it‘s a couple of years old where, well, I had a little bit of cleavage showing.  I‘m not ashamed of the picture—and used that photo.  And then in the next column, the next week, the columnist said, you know, in 55 years of political writing here in Alabama, he‘d never had a woman show cleavage in his column and his mother was about to roll over in her grave. 

And I just kind of sat down and wrote a letter to the editor and thanked him for introducing the twins to Alabama, and told him if they were offend, I‘d don my burka and come down and we could sit down and talk about the issues.  And, if for nothing else, thanks for getting me the horny guy vote, I really appreciate it.  A vote‘s a vote, after all.

OLBERMANN:  So, what was your purpose in running?  What is your campaign platform besides this sort of semi-sarcastic one? 

NALL:  Well, you alluded to the legalization of marijuana.  I think we need to address the drug war from criminal—I mean, from a health and social justice perspective, as opposed to criminal justice because that‘s obviously not working. 

We‘re spending $40 billion a year to incarcerate American citizens and wage war here.  I believe we need to pull our troops out of Iraq and as governor or Alabama I will be calling for the withdrawal of the National Guard troops from Iraq. 

As governor, you don‘t have great deal of power in that area, but I think if governors start calling for their sons and daughters to come home, then maybe finally, we will have an impact in Washington, D.C.  I believe in naturalizing the immigrants that are in Alabama, Hispanic immigrants, that a lot of politics  of hate and racism still play a part down here, as I‘m sure you well know. 

And so I if it‘s actually a fiscal matter of them not paying taxes, then the only fiscally conservative thing to do and fiscally responsible thing to do would be to naturalize them and add them to the tax base.  We have some local issues, lottery and casino gambling, I think we should have that here in Alabama—things of that nature. 

OLBERMANN:  You go on conservative radio talk shows and go to civic clubs and do you get to address the issues or is it all back to the boobs versus boobs thing? 

NALL:  Oh, no.  No. The boobs thing is actually—just started in the national media when the “A.P.”  ran an article.  Occasionally it comes up and the not wearing panties has come up a couple of times.  But the civic clubs and, you know, the Kiwanis and Rotary clubs and things of that nature, and the conservative talk radio, they understand the issues that I‘m talking about and they understand the economic impact and they actually don‘t think I‘m all that crazy. 

OLBERMANN:  I‘ve got 30 seconds left.  If you do not become governor of Alabama, are you going to continue in politics or you going to try something else? 

NALL:  Absolutely.  I‘ll be running against the U.S. Congressman Mike Rogers in Alabama‘s third district in 2008.  And in 2010, who knows, maybe I‘ll run for governor again. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, we wish you the best of luck on this.  Loretta Nall, Libertarian candidate for governor of Alabama.  Forthright and honest about this and good luck with both the serious and the less than serious elements of the campaign.  Good luck on November 7. 

NALL:  Thank you so much. 

OLBERMANN:  And so when you go to the polls on Tuesday next and you have your hand on that lever—all right, we‘ve run this one into the ground.  We‘ll stop now. 

That‘s COUNTDOWN for this, the 1,271st day since the declaration of “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq.  Talking about running it into the ground. 

I‘m Keith Olbermann, goodnight and good luck. 

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2006 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2006 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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